Community Police Forums are also known as CPF's in South Africa. Every police station in South Africa is required to have a CPF.
A CPF is a structure created by law to allow civilian oversight and input into local policing. Most CPF structures are underutilised and underperform consistently purely because they don’t understand the far-reaching powers that a CPF actually has.
A CPF is comprised of representatives of community groups and is elected annually at an AGM. For example, a CPF could have representatives from the local ratepayers association, neighbourhood watch, sports clubs and similar organisations.
Once properly established, the CPF is encouraged to form sub-forums, which are representative bodies for each sector. Theoretically, the CPF gets input from the sub-forums on what the community is and isn’t happy with and then discusses this with the SAPS management and provides feedback and action plans.
Overall, the CPF has far-reaching influence in a police station including giving input into the station’s budget and annual business plan (yes they do have one), the right to inspect the cells and talk to prisoners to see that they are being properly treated and of course to sit in on management meetings.
CPF structures report to the Department of Community Safety and have access to project funding and budgets to run community policing based projects throughout the area and to assist with creating a safer community. These budgets are relatively easy to tap into and require a minimum of paperwork to get a project launched.
All CPFs are required to hold monthly meetings that may be attended by the community to discuss concerns and patterns directly with police management.
I would encourage everyone to attend their local CPF meetings to get a feel for what strategies the local police have in place for crime prevention and service delivery. In a country where crime and crime prevention is high on everyone’s agenda, every community needs to be aware of the full facts and should interact through the appropriate channels with the SAPS.
Each station around South Africa is required to make the contact details of their CPF members available to the public. Ideally they should be available and displayed in the Community Service Centre or be available on request from the switchboard at the local police station.
Most CPFs circulate e-mails or smses to interested parties about when they are meeting, and meeting dates are generally fixed for evenings on the same day of each month (first or last Tuesday of the month, for example). If you haven’t yet made contact with your local CPF I strongly recommend you do so.